The ABA Journal has taken a look at 10 trials that changed the world, surmising that the “best” trials, starting with God’s punishment of Adam, illuminate the principles of law.
The Journal references their former Litigation column columnist James W. McElhaney, a trial advocacy teacher who wrote the column for a quarter-century before retiring in 2012, insisted that good trial lawyers must be effective storytellers.
“Stories are how we understand the inter-relationship of events,” says McElhaney. “Stories are at the heart of how we learn because they create memories and provide details we want to know. Stories grab us in a way that no list of facts could ever do. So why would you make your story difficult to follow?”
So, what does the ABA Journal say are about the 10 top trials?
In some cases, however, trials are more than compelling stories about the search for justice. They become the stuff of history through their impact on the law and society. While the full impact of these cases is difficult to measure at the moment they occur, it often is clear that their impact will be profound.
Edward W. Knappman, the editor of Great American Trials: From Salem Witchcraft to Rodney King, described in his preface the factors he considered in choosing the 200 cases covered in the book: historic significance, legal significance, political controversy, public attention, courtroom skills of the lawyers, and literary fame achieved by the trials.